Critics, Catharsis and Colonus
In lieu of an abstract, the first paragraph of the essay follows:
Tragedy is, therefore, the imitation of a serious action,
having a scope and magnitude, in pleasing language differing in
each of the forms in the various parts of the play; and tragedy
is the imitation of men in action not through narrative; tragedy
through pity and fear effects a catharsis of such misfortunes.
Poetics 6.1449b 24-281
Aristotle's famous "definition" of tragedy has a number of important aspects: it is an imitation of a serious action; by means of pleasing language; achieving a catharsis through pity and fear. Perhaps the two most important facets of Aristotle's description are 1.) the imitation of a serious action which he calls the plot (mythos)2 and 2.) the achieving of a. catharsis through pity and fear. Both of these facets obviously are interrelated, but not necessarily in the so often misconstrued interpretation of simple cause and effect. A possible key to an understanding of this relationship is an examination of the so-called critical term catharsis. Catharsis should be examined not so much as the end product (telos) caused by the plot as it should be examined in the context of the plot, that is, as an essential element in the artistic process involving the interaction of audience and dramatic action.
Chute, Edward J.
"Critics, Catharsis and Colonus,"
Comparative Drama: Vol. 5
, Article 4.
Available at: https://scholarworks.wmich.edu/compdr/vol5/iss4/4